Alaska Association of Alaska School Boards Executive Director Lon Garrison

Lon Garrison, who serves as executive director of the influential Alaska Association of School Boards, recently posted a sharply worded column in which he blasts those who note that dismal standardized test scores are objective evidence that Alaska’s public schools are failing to educate children.

“Standardized tests, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), have lately been the tool of choice for public school critics bent on demonstrating how poorly public education performs,” Garrison complained in a March 31 column. “It is often used as the single best indicator of student outcomes because it is a ‘normalized test’ carried out across the country and theoretically permitted comparisons from state to state or school to school.”

Alaska’s test results are, however, objectively among the very worst in the nation. Rather than address this hard data, Garrison lamented the fact that the test results give public school critics ammunition to question what’s actually happening in schools. He said it allows those with “little public education experience to develop arguments of causation that may be wholly inaccurate and inappropriate.”

Garrison and his association are among the ranks of public education apologists who are attempting to convince the Legislature to approve historic increases in school funding this year, despite the fact that standardized test scores show that upwards of 70% of Alaska students are failing to master basic math and reading skills.

Garrison added that teaching students is a “huge and, at times, overwhelming task.”

In Garrison’s estimation, these tests are just sterilized statistics, which don’t take into account the subjective and personal experiences that he and other state educators believe are far more important in factoring educational success.

“Many of us in public education, whether you are a school board member or educational professional, know that student success cannot be measured by a single test given once a year,” he asserts. “As a locally elected school board member in Sitka and a father of two daughters, I quickly realized that public education is a complex system.”

Garrison added that teaching students is a “huge and, at times, overwhelming task.” This is the same reasoning which has led many public school critics to push for competition such as school vouchers, more charter programs and greater homeschool freedoms.

Garrison, however, makes the argument that it would be far better to focus less on standardized tests. While he doesn’t offer any specific alternatives for how to measure a school’s success, he does claim that “using a myriad of indices to monitor the growth and development of the whole student” is much preferred.

Garrison contends that “school climate” and “connectedness” are far more important than test scores.

Rather than fixate on tests that gauge reading comprehension and math skills, Garrison says schools should focus on broad themes such as supporting the “entire community, its values, culture, and identity.”

He maintains that most people are more interested in subjective ideals like having “fulfilling, satisfying lives that contribute to the success of their families and communities,” and focusing on “cultural values, traditions, and identities.”

Garrison also contends that “school climate” and “connectedness” are far more important than test scores.

“Our premise is that schools that demonstrate a highly positive school climate also have students, staff, and well-connected communities,” he said.

Garrison also wants to turn attention things like “attendance, declining discipline issues, greater parental and community engagement, and how well-attended your extracurricular and arts activities are” when evaluating educational progress.

Notably, he also claims that taxpayer support for additional education bonds is bonified indicator of success.

Garrison ended his column with a personal experience he had in recalling what he described as a “huge smile” he saw from a high school graduate last year who had received some scholarships to attend a medical school.

“It was then and there, I knew that student outcomes are so much more than standardized tests,” he said. “Don’t let others define Alaska’s educational success or portray your work and dedication as a failure because of one measure. Be true to your mission, hold yourselves accountable, and support the whole child and community. The tests will take care of themselves. Tell others your story of success and the challenges that jeopardize your efforts.”

In recent years, amid declining academic results, the Association of Alaska School Boards has placed a heavy emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion trainings, along with promoting social emotional learning, LGBTQ initiatives and the introduction of critical race theory in public schools.

Of the 54 Alaska school districts, 51 are members of the AASB. Notably, Alaska’s second largest school district – Mat-Su – is no longer a member.

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School Board Assoc. director dismisses critics who point out Alaska’s dismal student test scores

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • DaveMaxwell says:

    Love your kids? Protect them by get them out of the prison system known now as public schools!

  • Neil DeWitt says:

    So here we go, one kid which actually was probably in the 30% that could read and do math got a scholarship so that’s the only one we’ll use for talking about here. The community is talking about the 70% that are failing. They are the kids we’re concerned about. As a executive director I’d think this clown would know he can’t judge the way he is. Heck, that’s part of the problem with schools. That is why I said cut the fat get rid of people just like him from the top down. As for teaching critical race or LGBTQ+ crap that can. stay on the back burner. We need the kids taught with the short school days they have in Alaska the basics. They need skills in life and how to balance a check book. Look at the slugs in Juneau they can’t and I’d bet a lot of them weren’t in that upper 30% either. It upsets me to read this article and the executive director even writing it. He should be listening to the parents that know their children. Schools only have a few hours a day and they seem to be indoctrination the kids with stuff like LGBTQ+ and critical race that’s not needed fir life. This is more liberal over reach and the kids and future generations will pay the price! NO MORE MONEY FOR SCHOOLS!

  • Barbara says:

    I’m looking forward to getting treated by a future doctor that graduated from a failing school with no academic standards. At least I will know they will use my correct pronouns.

    What a joke!

  • StopTheMadness says:

    “…Garrison says schools should focus on broad themes such as supporting the “entire community, its values, culture, and identity.”

    Funny, I would’ve thought this is the parents’ role in raising a child…

  • D Burger says:

    Testing is the means of evaluating knowledge and skills learned. Knowledge and skills learned are partially the result of information provided in the classroom. Certainly other factors are influential but not “wholly inaccurate and inappropriate…”. The orderliness of the home, community and classroom are logical contributors to a positive learning environment. Garrison’s suggesting that diversity, equity inclusion training, LGBTQ initiatives and critical race theory are the answer to all the problems is empty of results beyond encouraging division. Asking a question you don’t already know the answer to in a courtroom is ill-advised but I am curious to know the test scores of the “high school graduate last year who received some scholarships to attend medical school”. Mr Garrison is correct in suggesting that multiple factors influence social and professional skills but comes from him regarding how to contribute to family, social and classroom negatives. Thus-far, the initiatives he suggests have served only to aggravate the conditions. Which is specifically what the progressive agenda desires.

  • Ruth Ewig says:

    Garrison talks in “gobbledy gook.” Never mind the facts. The bureaucrat speaks. One of the problems with these “educators” is that they have no accountability Cancelling their education money from the legislators, might get their attention, or better yet, School Choice in some form would provide the incentive to improve. Currently, the government schools, ( I mean Marxist schools), are lawless and have no interest in improving. They are untouchable. Garrison can use all kinds of excuses for the failing schools but those excuses do not alter the facts. By the way, in a previous Alaska Watchman. it was revealed that the school districts in Alaska are hoarding 242 million dollars in unspent COVID funds. We suspect that they hope we ignore the facts, so that they and the NEA can put pressure on the legislatiors to fund them and tax us or take away our permanent fund for their useless and bloated “system.” The unelected school board association members are just another union that interferes with the citizens’ of Alaska’s input. Pray that the truth will keep coming out. By the way, if a teacher is discovered to be Christian, that teacher is fired or disenfranchised in some way. The administrators have weeded out anyone Christian and have left the evolutionists. These evolutionists in charge have no Biblical standard and are terrible role models. These are liars and deceivers just like Garrison who is wielding control that he hasn’t legitimately earned.

  • David Boyle says:

    That student who got scholarships to attend a medical school probably also did very, very well on the Medical College Admissions Test, a requirement. The Education Industry is trying very hard to dismiss the AKSTAR standardized test just like it did the previous tests, Iowa Test of Basic Skills, California Achievement Test, AK Standardized Basic Assessment, and the AK PEAKS standardized test. If you cannot make the grade, move the goal posts, lower the basket, or shorten the 100 yard run.

  • Bryan says:

    And this, folks, is why we have a generation of idiots.

  • micah6v8 says:

    This is the face (one of many) of your enemy.

  • Steve Peterson says:

    I don’t necessarily want that potential doctor with a big smile operating on me. I want a smart, well educated one, thank you.

    • DaveMaxwell says:

      Bring it closer to home Steve. This empty suit of a governor, he’s been in leadership of the indoctrination center, are we pleased to see his brains at work? Carbon millions $$$ = poverty of IQ and our state resources!!!

  • Sally says:

    This is exactly why our schools are in such dismal disarray. We are continually told to NOT look at the evidence, but to look at how hard the system is TRYING to help our kids. What a bunch of hoohah! Leave the teachers alone to teach our kids and they will come out being able to read, write, spell, add, subtract, divide, know our REAL history. Accountability is not just for the teachers, but the administration who love filling their time with inconsequential garbage forms, paperwork and, oh by the way, proper pronouns. Another bunch of trash! It is time to take stock of who and what is in our schools and ADJUST the outcome by changing the input to our kids!

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    I would be willing to bet that you could dig up some globalist influence behind the AASB!

  • Marilyn Wick says:

    Sorry Dave, but community is not why schools exist; schools are SUPPOSED TO teach: linguistics, writing, mathematics, science AND history, thus preparing them for their path forward as an adult.
    They learn community through their family & friends; engaging in extra curricular activities. It’s educators such as yourself whom want it easy peasy for the student, while encouraging students from pre-k on to learn all about the 90 genders & to experiment with transgenderism.
    Gosh, universities don’t educate educators efficiently; they just teach woke indoctrination. Such a travesty to our American students.